Sooner or later, every business is faced with the daunting
task of upgrading its existing accounting software, or migrating to a new
system entirely. The task is never without its complications, and every upgrade
or migration is different depending on a wide variety of factors, including
your business processes and the new software that you’ve chosen.
But here are a few tips that can make the process less
bumpy, and get you up and running on a new system in no time.
Know Your Workflow
Understanding and documenting your workflow is a crucial
first step in any accounting system transition, according to The Resource
Group, a consultancy based in the Seattle suburb of Renton, Wash. What can seem
like an overwhelming amount of effort in the beginning has the potential to
save time, ensure the accuracy of numbers and data, and streamline financial
communications over the longer term. It’s also the perfect time to make any
adjustments in workflow that you’ve always considered, but never had the time
to make in the past.
PC Magazine suggests gathering all the data you’ll need
beforehand, such as payroll and tax information; customer and vendor lists; and
a list of users and their various permission levels. Also, make sure you have
the resources in place before the installation: Do you have the right
computers, with compatible operating systems and processing capabilities that
your new software will require?
Before you start migrating data into the system, check to
see what file formats are accepted or encouraged for uploading, such as CSV or
Microsoft Excel. You may need to format your existing data into one of the
accepted file formats prior to the data migration.
BMRG, which consults with accounting firms nationwide,
suggests that it’s also a good idea to run a test migration to ensure your data
is coming over appropriately. Once your test data is live, run it through its
paces through invoicing, reporting and other functionality.
Set a Go-Live Date
Once you’ve run through some test data, set a firm date for
transition to the new system. Your legacy data will be migrated one last time
to the new system, and you’ll take advantage of the lessons you’ve learned from
your extensive testing.
Virtually every accounting software program has a set-up or
migration tool, but be prepared for some curveballs along the way. It’s a good
idea to invest in some detailed reference books that can be used as quick,
handy resources for any issues you encounter. In a perfect world, the software
would anticipate every need and situation, but when in doubt, look it up. Also,
take advantage of any help resources that your software vendor offers.
Create a Super-User
Now is the perfect time to designate one person as a
"super-user,” a go-to authority for your new software who also has the highest
level of permission for the system. Make sure they receive adequate training
and documentation – both before and after the installation – and that they
understand their responsibility as a resource for the rest of your staff if
questions arise. The super-user is your first line of support for staff
members; if the questions can’t be answered at that level, it gets escalated to
technical support at the software company.
Training Plays a Pivotal Role
It’s strongly advised to put together brief training
sessions for your staff. This not only gets everyone off on the right foot, but
also ensures that everyone is following the same practices and procedures. Some
users may not react well initially to the new software, the change in workflow
or the impact on their daily routines, but training will help ease the process.
It’s Not Over Even When It’s Over
A successful conversion is just the beginning. Adjusting
your new software and your workflow will be an ongoing process. Stay flexible;
you’ll learn more about the system as you go, and be able to optimize it for
Remembering a few best practices – and managing everyone’s
expectations before, during and after the software migration – will ultimately
pay off in a system that will serve your needs over the long term, as well as
making sure you won’t have to do another migration anytime soon.